Fine leather belts for men can make or break an outfit. From poor fit to poor quality or even simply poor style choice, a ill-worn leather belt can signal slovenliness. A fine leather belt, however, when properly fit and styled to coordinate, can bring an entire outfit together and elevate the appearance of the wearer.
With annual shipments of leather belts reaching $92 million and up, choosing the right belt from among the multitude of leather belts for men available can be a daunting task. This guide is designed to help ease that challenge. Whether you’re buying leather belts for casual wear or formal and shopping for yourself or someone else, here are the essentials every man, woman, and child should know about buying leather belts for men.
Size by length
Leather belts for men, like all belts, are sized by their length. To find the right leather belt, you need to determine the size you need. A properly fit dress belt will have a few inches of leather to the left of the fastened buckle when worn. Ideally you’d like enough extra length to tuck the free end under your belt loop, but not so much that you’re wrapping your waist a time and a half. You can get away with a bit more extra length in casual leather belts for men, but its still best to err on the side of short than long.
If you’re shopping for yourself, the easiest way to check for size is to try the belt on. If you’re shopping for a leather belt as a gift, however, you can gauge a good fit by the size listed on the belt. Most store-bought mens leather belts are sized based on pant size. For a proper fit, choose a belt that’s two to three sizes larger than your pant waist. For instance, if you wear a 34 inch waist, typically, opt for a leather belt labeled for a 36 inch to 38 inch belt.
When choosing leather belts for men, coordinating the color is key. Be it a casual or dress belt, leather must always match leather. Considering that on average, a person will be wearing four leather items at any given moment, this can require more forethought than you might expect. If you’ll be wearing glossy, brown leather shoes, you want a glossy, brown leather belt to match. If your shoes are made of a matte leather, pick a matte belt. For the most put-together appearance, also match your belt to any leather briefcases you’ll be carrying.
As much as the quality of leather used on a leather belt, the buckle makes a statement as to quality and style. As a general rule of thumb, a bigger buckle indicates a more casual belt. A dress belt will usually have small, flat buckles that may be narrower even than the belt itself. A leather dress belt will almost always have either a gold or silver-colored buckle.
The buckle is another place to think about coordination. A dress belt buckle should be in the same color family as any type of male jewelry you’ll be wearing. If you plan to wear gold cuff-links with your suit, opt for a gold belt buckle. If you always wear a silver statement ring (this rule doesn’t apply to wedding bands, of course; only stylistic pieces), stick to silver belt buckles when you can.
For casual leather belts, think in terms of theme as opposed to shape or size. If you wear a lot of Western wear, find a belt to match.
When shopping for leather belts for men, the quality of the leather is paramount. There are four general types of leather: full-grain, top-grain, corrected-grain, and split leather. Top-grain and full-grain are considered the highest quality of leather, and as such are often the preferred type for fine leather goods and accessories.
Inspect the quality of the belt by flexing it and checking for signs of cracking or brittleness. High quality leather should be soft and supple. You can also test the quality by lightly scratching the backside of the belt with your fingernail. If doing so leaves a faint line, you’re holding a belt made of soft, fresh leather.